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IL CON VI TO



THE BANQUET



*e



OF



DANTE ALIGHIERI



TRANSLATED BY



ELIZABETH PRICE SAYER




WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY HENRY MORLEY

LL.D., PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE AT
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON



LONDON
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS

BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL
GLASGOW AND NEW YORK

1887



MORLEY'S UNIVERSAL LIBRARY.


i


I. Sheridan's Plays.


28. Dante's Divine Comedy.


2. Plays from Mo Here. By


LONGFELLOW'S Translation.


English Dramatists.


29. Goldsmiths Vicar of Wake-


3. Marlowe's Faustus and


field, Plays, and Poems.


GoetJies Faust.


30. Fables and Proverbs from


4. Chronicle of the Cid.


the Sanskrit. (Hitopadesa.)


5. Rabelais' Gargantua and the
Heroic Deeds of Pantagruel.


31. Lamb's Essays of Eha.
32. 77^ History of Thomas


6. Machiavclli's Prince.


Ellwood.


7. Bacon's Essays. 1 33- Emerson's Essays, &c.


8. Defoe's Journal of the


34. Southey's Life of Nelson.


Plague Year.


35. Zte Quincey's Confessions


9. Locke on Civil Government


of an Opium-Eater, &*c.


and Filmed s "Patriarcha."


36. Stories of Ireland. By Miss


10. Butler's Analogy of Religion.
II. Dry den's Virgil.


EDGEWORTH.
37. Frere's Aristophanes:


12. Scott's Demonology and
Witchcraft.


Acharnians, Knights, Birds.
38. Burke' s Speeches and Letters.


13. Her rick's Hesperidts.


39. 7^homas a Kempis.


14. Coleridge's Table- Talk.


40. Popular Sougs of Ireland.


15- Boccaccio's Decameron.


41. Potter's sEschylus.


1 6. Sterne's Tristram Shandy.


42. Goethe's Faust: Part II.


I'/. Chapman's Homer's Iliad.
1 8. Medieval Tales.


ANSTER'S Translation.
43. Famous Pamphlets.


19. Voltaire's Candide, and
Johnson's Rasseias.


44. Francklin's Sophocles.
45. 3/. (7. Lewis's Tales of


20. Jomon's Plays and Poems.
21. Hobbes's Leviathan.


Terror and Wonder.

46. Vestiges of the Natural


22. Sajnuel Butler's Hudibras.
23. Ideal Commonwealths.


History of Creation.
47. D ray ton s Barons' Wars,

Nymphidia, &*.


24. Cavendish's Life of Wolsey.


48. CobbetCs Advice to Youn


25 & 26. Z>07* Quixote.


n/r

Men.


2 7 . Burlesque Plays and Poems.


49. Dante's Convito.


yp g




INTRODUCTION.



THIS translation of Dante's Convito the first in English
is from the hand of a lady whose enthusiasm for the genius
of Dante has made it a chief pleasure of her life to dwell
on it by translating, not his Divine Comedy only, but also
the whole body of his other works. Among those works
the Vita Nuova and the Convito have a distinct place,
as leading up to the great masterpiece. In the New Life,
Man starts on his career with human love that points
to the divine. In the Banquet, he passes to mature life
and to love of knowledge that declares the power and
the love of God in the material and moral world about
us and within us. In the Divine Comedy, the Poet passes
to the world to come, and rises to the final union of the
love for Beatrice, the beatifier, with the glory of the Love
of God. Of this great series, the crowning work has, of
course, had many translators, and there have been translators
also of the book that shows the youth of love. But the
noble fragment of the Convito that unites these two has, I
believe, never yet been placed within reach of the English
reader, except by a translation of its poems only into



6 INTRODUCTION.

unrhymed measure in Mr. Charles Lyell's " Poems of the
Vita Nuova and the Convito," published in 1835.

The Convito is a fragment. There are four books where
fifteen were designed, including three only of the intended
fourteen songs. But the plan is clear, and one or two
glances forward to the matter of the last book, which would
have had Justice for its theme, show that all was to have
been brought to a high spiritual close.

Its aim was no less than the lifting of men's minds
by knowledge of the world without them and within them,
bound together in creation, showing forth the Mind of the
Creator. The reader of this volume must not flinch from
the ingenious dialectics of the mediaeval reasoner on Man
and Nature. Dante's knowledge is the knowledge of his
time. Science had made little advance since Aristotle
who is " the Philosopher " taken by Dante for his human
guide first laid its foundations. It is useful, no doubt, to
be able in a book like this, shaped by a noble mind, to
study at their best the forms of reasoning that made the
science of the Middle Ages. But the reader is not called
upon to make his mind unhappy with endeavours to seize
all the points, say, of a theory of the heavens that was most
ingenious, but in no part true. The main thing is to observe
how the mistaken reasoning joins each of the seven sciences
to one of the seven heavens, and here as everywhere joins
earth to heaven, and bids man lift his head and look up,
Godward, to the source of light. If spiritual truth could
only come from right and ] perfect knowledge, this would
have been a world of dead souls from the first till now ; for



INTRODUCTION. 7

future centuries, in looking back at us, will wonder at the
little faulty knowledge that we think so much. But let the
known be what it may, the true soul rises from it to a sense
of the divine mysteries of Wisdom and of Love. Dante's
knowledge may be full of ignorance, and so is ours. But he
fills it as he can with the Spirit of God. He is not content
that men should be as sheep, and look downward to earth
for all the food they need. He bids them to a Banquet of
another kind, whose dishes are of knowledge for the mind
and heavenward aspiration for the soul.

Dante's Convito of which the name was, no doubt,
suggested by the Banquets of Plato and Xenophon was
written at the close of his life, after the Divine Comedy, and
no trace has been found of more of its songs than the three
which may have been written and made known some time
before he began work on their Commentary. Death stayed
his hand, and the completion passed into a song that
joined the voice of Dante to the praise in heaven.

H. M.
April 1887.





THE

BANQUET OF DANTE ALIGHIERL



jfirst treatise*



CHAPTER I.

As the Philosopher says in the beginning of the first
Philosophy : " All men naturally desire Knowledge."
The reason of which may be, that each thing,
impelled by the intuition of its own nature, tends L
towards its perfection ; hence, forasmuch as Know-
ledge is the final perfection of our Soul, in which
our ultimate happiness consists, we are all naturally
subject to the desire for it.

Verily, many are deprived of this most noble
perfection, by divers causes within the man and
without him, which remove him from the use of
Knowledge.

Within the man there may be two defects or
impediments ; the one on the part of the Body, the
other on the part of the Soul. On the part of the
Body it is, when the parts are unfitly disposed, so
that it can receive nothing : as with the deaf and
dumb, and their like. On the part of the Soul it is,
when evil triumphs in it, so that it becomes the



io THE BANQUET OF DANTE AL1GHIER1.

follower of vicious pleasures, through which it is so
much deceived, that on account of them it holds
everything in contempt.

Without the man, two causes may in like manner
be understood, of which one comes of necessity, the
other of stagnation. The first is the management of
the family and conduct of civil affairs, which fitly
draws to itself the greater number of men, so that
they cannot live in the quietness of speculation.
The other is the fault of the place where a person
is born and reared, which will ofttimes be not only
without any School whatever, but may be far distant
from studious people. The two first of these causes
the first of the hindrance from within, and the first of
the hindrance from without are not deserving of
blame, but of excuse and pardon ; the two others,
although the one more than the other, deserve blame
and are to be detested.

Hence, he who reflects well, can manifestly see
that they are few who can attain to the enjoyment
of Knowledge, though it is desired by all, and
almost innumerable are the fettered ones who live
for ever famished of this food.

Oh, blessed are those few who sit at that table
where the Bread of Angels is eaten, and wretched
those who can feed only as the Sheep. But because
each man is naturally friendly to each man, and each
friend grieves for the fault of him whom he loves ;
they who are fed at that high table are full of
mercy towards those whom they see straying in
one pasture with the creatures who eat grass and
acorns.

And forasmuch as Mercy is the Mother of
Benevolence, those who know how, do always
liberally offer their good wealth to the true poor,



THE FIRST TREATISE. II

and are like a living stream, whose water cools the
before-named natural thirst I, then, who sit not at
the blessed table, but having fled from the pasture of
the common herd, lie at the feet of those who sit
there and gather up what falls from them, by the
sweetness which I find in that which I collect little
by little, I know the wretched life of those whom I
have left behind me ; and moved mercifully for the
unhappy ones, not forgetting myself, I have reserved
something which I have shown to their eyes long
ago, and for this I have made them greatly desirous.
Wherefore, now wishing to prepare for them, I mean
to make a common Banquet of this which I have
shown to them, and of that needed bread without
which food such as this could not be eaten by* them
at their feast ; bread fit for such meat, which I
know, without it, would be furnished forth in vain.
And therefore I desire that no one should sit at this
Banquet whose members are so unfitly disposed that
he has neither teeth, nor tongue, nor palate : nor any
follower of vice ; inasmuch as his stomach is full
of venomous and hurtful humours, so that it will
retain no food whatever. But let those come to us,
whosoever they be, who, pressed by the management
of civil and domestic life, have felt this human
hunger, and at one table with others who have been
in like bondage, let them sit. But at their feet let
us place all those who have been the slaves of
sloth, and who are not worthy to sit higher : and
then let these and those eat of my dish, with the
bread which I will cause them to taste and to
digest.

The meat at this repast will be prepared in four-
teen different ways, that is, in fourteen Songs, some
of whose themes will be of Love and some of Virtue:



12 THE BANQUET OF DANTE ALIGHIERI.

which, without the present bread, might have some
shadow of obscurity, so that to many they might be
acceptable more on account of their form than
because of their spirit. But this bread is the present
Exposition. It will be the Light whereby each colour
of their design will be made visible.

And if in the present work, which is named
"Convito" the Banquet, the glad Life Together
I desire that the subject should be discussed more
maturely than in the Vita Nuova the New Life I
do not therefore mean in any degree to undervalue
that Fresh Life, but greatly to enhance it ; seeing
how reasonable it is for that age to be fervid and
passionate, and for this to be mature and temperate.
At one age it is fit to speak and work in one way,
and at another age in another way ; because certain
manners are fit and praiseworthy at one age which
are improper and blameable at another, as will be
demonstrated with suitable argument in the fourth
treatise of this Book. In that first Book (Vita
Nuova) at the entrance into my youth I spoke ; and
in this latter I speak after my youth has already
passed away. And since my true meaning may be
other than that which the aforesaid songs show forth,
I mean by an allegoric exposition to explain these
after the literal argument shall have been reasoned
out : so that the one argument with the other shall
give a relish to those who are the guests invited to
this Banquet. And of them all I pray that if the feast
be not so splendid as befits the proclamation thereof,
let them impute each defect, not to my will but
my means, since my will here is to a full and lovi
Liberality.



THE FIRST TREATISE. 13



CHAPTER II.

IN preparing for every well-ordered Banquet the
servants are wont to take the proper bread, and see
that it is clean from all blemish ; wherefore I, who in
the present writing stand in servant's place, intend
firstly to remove two spots from this exposition
which at my repast stands in the place of bread.

The one is, that it appears to be unlawful for any
one to speak of himself; the other, that it seems to
be unreasonable to speak too deeply when giving
explanations. Let the knife of my judgment pare
away from the present treatise the unlawful and the
unreasonable. One does not permit any Rhetorician
to speak of himself without a necessary cause. And
from this is the man removed, because he can speak
of no one without praise or blame of those of whom
he speaks ; which two causes commonly induce a
man to speak of himself. And in order to remove
a doubt which here arises, I say that it is worse
for any one to blame than to praise himself,
although neither may have to be done. The reason
is, that anything which is essentially wrong is worse
than that which is wrong through accident. For a -
man openly to bring contempt on himself is essen-
tially wrong to his friend, because a man owes it to
take account of his fault secretly, and no one is more
friendly to himself than the man himself. In the
chamber of his thoughts, therefore, he should reprove
himself and weep over his faults, and not before the ;
world. Again, a man is but seldom blamed when
he has not the power or the knowledge requisite to
guide himself aright : but he is always blamed when
v/eak of will, because our good or evil dispositions



14 THE BANQUET OF DANTE A LIGHTER! .

are measured by the strength of will. Wherefore
he who blames himself proves that he knows his
fault, while he reveals his want of goodness ; if,
therefore, he know his 'fault, let him no more speak
evil of himself. If a man praise himself it is to
avoid evil, as it were ; inasmuch as it cannot be done
except such self-laudation become in excess dis-
honour ; it is praise in appearance, it is infamy in sub-
stance. For the words are spoken to prove that of
which he has not inward assurance. Hence, he who
lauds himself proves his belief that he is not
esteemed to be a good man, and this befalls him
not unless he have an evil conscience, which he
reveals by self-praise, and in so revealing it he
blames himself.

And, again, self-praise and self-blame are to be
shunned equally, for this reason, that it is false wit-
nessing. Because there is no man who can be a true
and just judge of himself, so much will self-love deceive
him. Hence it happens that every man has in his
own judgment the measures of the false merchant,
who sells with the one, and buys with the other.
Every man weights the scales against his own
wrong-doing, and adds weight to his good deeds ;
so that the number and the quantity and the weight
of the good deeds appear to him to be greater than
if they were tried in a just balance ; and in like
manner the evil appears less. Wherefore speaking
of himself with praise or with blame, either he
speaks falsely with regard to the thing of which he
speaks, or he speaks falsely by the fault of his judg-
ment ; and as the one is untruth, so is the other.
And therefore, since to acquiesce is to admit, he
is wrong who praises or who blames before the
face of any man ; because the man thus appraised



THE FIRST TREATISE. 15

can neither acquiesce nor deny without falling into
the error of either praising or blaming himself.
Reserve the way of due correction, which cannot be
taken without reproof of error, and which corrects if
understood. Reserve also the way of due honour
and glory, which cannot be taken without mention
of virtuous works, or of dignities that have been
worthily acquired.

And in truth, returning to the main argument,
I say, as before, that it is permitted to a man for
requisite reasons to speak of himself. And amongst
the several requisite reasons two are most evident :
the one is when a man cannot avoid great danger and
infamy, unless he discourse of himself; and then it
is conceded for the reason, that to take the less
objectionable of the only two paths, is to take as it
were a good one. And this necessity moved Boethius
to speak of himself, in order that under pretext of
Consolation he might excuse the perpetual shame of
his imprisonment, by showing that imprisonment to
be unjust ; since no other man arose to justify him.
And this reason moved St. Augustine to speak of
himself in his Confessions ; that, by the progress
of his life, which was from bad to good, and from
good to better, and from better to best, he might
give example and instruction, which, from truer
testimony, no one could receive. Therefore, if either
of these reasons excuse me, the bread of my moulding
is sufficiently cleared from its first impurity.

The fear of shame moves me ; and I am moved
by the desire to give instruction which others truly
are unable to give. I fear shame for having followed
passion so ardently, as he may conceive who reads
the afore-named Songs, and sees how greatly I was
ruled by it ; which shame ceases entirely by the



16 THE BANQUET OF DANTE ALIGHIERL

present speech of myself, which proves that not
passion but virtue may have been the moving cause.
I intend also to demonstrate the true meaning of
those Poems, which some could not perceive unless
I relate it, because it is concealed under the veil
of Allegory ; and this it not only will give pleasure
to hear, but subtle instruction, both as to the diction
and as to the intention of the other writings



CHAPTER III.

MUCH fault is in that thing which is appointed to re-
move some grave evil, and yet encourages it ; even
as in the man who might be sent to quell a tumult,
and, before he had quelled it, should begin another.
And forasmuch as my bread is made clean on
one side, it behoves me to cleanse it on the other,
in order to shun this reproof : that my writing, which
one may term, as it were, a Commentary, is appointed
to remove obscurity from the before-mentioned
Songs, and is, in fact, itself at times a little hard
to understand. This obscurity is here intended, in
order to avoid a greater defect, and does not occur
through ignorance. Alas ! would that it might have
pleased the Dispenser of the Universe that the cause
of my excuse might never have been ; that others
might neither have sinned against me, nor I have
suffered punishment unjustly ; the punishment, I say,
of exile and poverty ! Since it was the pleasure of the
citizens of the most beautiful and the most famous
daughter of Rome, Florence, to cast me out from her
most sweet bosom (wherein I was born and nourished
even to the height of my life, and in which, with her
goodwill, I desire with all my heart to repose my



THE FIRST TREATISE. 17

weary soul, and to end the time which is given to
me), I have gone through almost all the land in
which this language lives a pilgrim, almost a mendi-
cant showing forth against my will the wound of
Fortune, with which the ruined man is often unjustly
reproached. Truly I have been a ship without a
sail and without a rudder, borne to divers ports and
lands and shores by the dry wind which blows from
doleful poverty; and I have appeared vile in the
eyes of many, who perhaps through some report
may have imaged me in other form. In the sight of
whom not only my person became vile, but each
work already completed was held to be of less
value than that might again be which remained yet
to be done.

The reason wherefore this happens (not only to
me but to all), it now pleases me here briefly to touch
upon. And firstly, it is because rumour goes beyond
the truth ; and then, what is beyond the truth restricts
and strangles it. Good report is the first-born ofV
kindly thought in the mind of the friend ; which the
mind of the foe, although it may receive the seed,
conceives not.

That mind which gives birth to it in the first
place, so to make its gift more fair, as by the charity
of friendship, keeps not within bounds of truth, but
passes beyond them. When one does that to adorn
a tale, he speaks against his conscience ; when
it is chanty that causes him to pass the bounds, he
speaks not against conscience.

The second mind which receives this, not only is
content with the exaggeration of the first mind, but
its own report adds its own effect of endeavours to
embellish, and so by this action, and by the decep-
tion which it also receives from the goodwill



1 8 THE BANQUET OF DANTE ALlGHIERL

generated in it, good report is made more ample
than it should be ; either with the consent or the
dissent of the conscience ; even as it was with the
first mind. And the third receiving mind does this ;
and the fourth ; and thus the exaggeration of good
ever grows. And so, by turning the aforesaid
motives in the contrary direction, one can perceive
why ill-fame in like manner is made to grow.
Wherefore Virgil says in the fourth of the ^Eneid :
" Let Fame live to be fickle, and grow as she goes."
Clearly, then, he who is willing may perceive that the
image generated by Fame alone is always larger,
whatever it may be, than the thing imaged is, in its
true state.



CHAPTER IV.

HAVING previously shown the reason why Fame
magnifies the good and the evil beyond due limit,
it remains in this chapter to show forth those
reasons which make evident why the Presence restricts
in the opposite way, and having shown this I will
return to the principal proposition. I say, then,
that for three causes his Presence makes a person
of less value than he is. The first is childishness, I
do not say of age, but of mind ; the second is envy ;
and these are in the judge : the third is human
impurity ; and this is in the person judged. The
first, one can briefly reason thus : the greater part
of men live according to sense and not according to
reason, after the manner of children, and the like of
these judge things simply from without ; and the
goodness which is ordained to a fit end they perceive
not, because the eyes of Reason, which they need in



THE FIRST TREATISE. 19

order to perceive it, are closed. Hence, they soon
see all that they can, and judge according to their
sight.

And forasmuch as any opinion they form on the
good fame of others, from hearsay, with which, in
the presence of the person judged, their imperfect
judgment may dissent, they amend not according to
reason, because they judge merely according to
sense, they will deem that which they have first
heard to be a lie as it were, and dispraise the person
who was previously praised. Hence, in such men,
and such are almost all, Presence restricts the one
fame and the other. Such men as these are incon-
stant and are soon cloyed ; they are often gay and
often sad from brief joys and sorrows ; speedy
friends and speedy foes ; each thing they do like
children, without the use of reason.

The second observation from these reasons is, that
due comparison is cause for envy to the vicious ; and
envy is a cause of evil judgment, because it does
not permit Reason to argue for that which is envied,
and the judicial power is then like the judge who
hears only one side. Hence, when such men as
these perceive a person to be famous, they are
immediately jealous, because they compare members
and powers ; and they fear, on account of the
excellence of such an one, to be themselves
accounted of less worth ; and these passionate men,
not only judge evilly, but, by defamation, they cause
others to judge evilly. Wherefore with such men
their apprehension restricts the acknowledgment of
good and evil in each person represented ; and I say
this also of evil, because many who delight in evil
deeds have envy towards evil-doers.

The third observation is of human frailty, which



20 THE BANQUET OF DANTE ALIGHIERI.

one accepts on the part of him who is judged, and from
which familiar conversation is not altogether free.
In evidence of this, it is to be known that man is
stained in many parts ; and, as says St. Augustine,
" none is without spot." Now, the man is stained
with some passion, which he cannot always resist ;
now, he is blemished by some fault of limb ; now,
he is bruised by some blow from Fortune ; now, he
is soiled by the ill-fame of his parents, or of some
near relation : things which Fame does not bear


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